“I DO CARE!!!” It was written in red, capital letters across the top of one of the approximately 400 clip-and-mail Danby cartoon ballots received by the NEWS on Monday. It is one of the clear messages from this unscientific survey of public sentiment on the continued service of Rep. John Martin as speaker of the House:
People do care.
Last week, as the aftermath of the ballot-tampering scandal reached its political crescendo, Republicans were going for the throat. A few Democrats tried to reduce this issue to a partisan tiff. They said the public wasn’t interested in the issue of Speaker Martin’s continued presense as speaker. Boy, were they wrong.
The survey results were overwhelming.
Martin should go, 371.
Martin should stay, 27.
Remember, this is the mail count through Monday. There will be more.
The political system does not offer adequate access for public comment. People (a few respondents pointed this out) were frustrated. They couldn’t get through to the State House. They couldn’t reach their representative. They wanted to ensure that their sentiments would be recorded. They clipped and mailed the cartoon.
Speaker Martin is not popular, and he is not wanted. Gaining the speakership is an exercise in political power, but public unhappiness with Martin goes beyond popularity. He has been speaker for 18 years. If the people disliked him, but felt he was effective and was needed at this moment in Maine history, they would hold their nose and keep him on. The House is obligated to consider this obvious lack of public support for its leadership.
The surveys came from all over Maine — including Belfast, Portland, Dexter, Presque Isle, Millinocket, Hampden, Brownville, Lincoln, Searsport and Newport. People took the time to cut them out, make their “X” and often include a note, address the envelope, buy a stamp and go to the mailbox. That effort sends a message.
Some of the responses carried a partisan sting. One asked for Gov. John McKernan’s resignation and another for Rep. Walt Whitcomb’s (the Republican leader in the House).
But most wrote to buttress their conviction that Martin should go. “Better late than never,” wrote a Bar Harbor reader. “He is mocking the system,” another commented. It was referendum on Martin.
In one brown envelope, along with cut-out cartoon and the vote for Martin to leave the speakership, a respondent included a packet of 20 copies of the original, with a handwritten note paperclipped to the bogus bundle: “P.S. Should you need a few more votes, use these!”
This is an ethical issue for the public. The responses from hundreds of readers reflects a crisis in confidence in the speaker. It is impossible to read them and not agree that “Martin should go.”